Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Network Power Control for Remote HF Stations or Repeaters (Luxul PDU-02)

 

     
Controlling the AC power on equipment in a remote location can be very helpful. The scenario I think of is a repeater 'locking up' in the dead of winter, getting to the site is difficult. It will take time to get to the site. In the end, you only need to turn the equipment off and on again. A job that should only take a few minutes if you can do it remotely over the internet.

Whether it's your remote PC, HF transceiver, or a repeater, if you have networking and the internet, a PDU can be a very handy piece of equipment.

My local ham club has a custom programmed Raspberry Pi doing multiple functions in one of our repeater shacks. Remotely rebooting that Pi has already been seen as a valuable feature especially in the dead of winter.

Recently I picked up a number of the Luxul PDU-02's. A professional piece of network power equipment designed for purposes like networking, home theatre, automation scenarios. MSRP on the PDU-02 is approx $225 US.

The setup couldn't be simpler.
  • Plug the provided 2ft. power cable into an AC power source. Any standard IEC PC power cord can be used if you need something longer. 
  • Plug the network into the ethernet port. Add the provided RF choke to the ethernet cable as close to the PDU as possible.
  • Plugin the power cables for two devices (or a string of devices on power bars if you need more plugs).
  • Get onto your network with a PC or laptop
  • The PDU will pickup an IP address over DHCP. If the PDU 2 fails to find a DHCP server the unit will default to the IP address 192.168.0.6. You can use a network scanner to identify what IP it's using and plug that into your web browser to access the device's handy web interface.
Key features and specs.

  • Individual IP outlet control of 2 outlets.
  • 12 amp continuous load, 15 amp peaks.
  • Easy setup and control
  • IP “Autoping” and recovery for optimized system reliability
  • MOV surge and spike protection
  • Fast and easy configuration
  • Automatic actions improve system reliability
  • Automatic notification of connection status
  • Control start-up or shut-down with remote sequencing
  • Seamlessly interfaces with third-party control systems and cloud platforms for scheduling, control, reporting and customization
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Connected equipment warranty
  • Mounting kit included with a metal bracket for wall or flat surface mount.
  • RF choke provided for ethernet cable
  • Ground connector built-in.
  • The unit shipped with the latest firmware 1.10.00
  • Three account levels are built-in (admin, user, control system account). 
  • Accurate time from a network time source.
  • Configure email alerts.



The web interface for the PDU has all the basic features and is very nicely laid out.











Specifications Document


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Field Day 2021

Official Times

Field Day is always the fourth full weekend of June, beginning at 1800 UTC Saturday and running through 2059 UTC Sunday. Field Day 2021 is June 26-27.

Local Start (British Columbia, PST)

  • 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is
  • 11:00 a.m. Saturday, in Lumby, BC
Local End (British Columbia Canada PST)

  • 8:59 p.m. Sunday, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is
  • 1:59 p.m. Saturday, in Lumby, BC

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

'Poor Hams' USB VFO Knob for PowerSDR & Legacy Flex SDR's



Don't get me wrong, the FlexControl from FlexRadio Systems is a fantastic VFO knob for your Flex SDR. But the price tag might scare some away, and people like me prefer to keep my FlexControl at home in the shack with my primary Flex SDR transceiver, away from the grit and grime of outdoor use.

But with my other Flex, I was looking for a smaller, lighter, cheaper USB VFO knob solution for outdoors & Field Day. Something that I wouldn't be as worried about losing or damaging. So, that's why I went down the rabbit hole of USB Volume knobs. Many of these are inexpensive but also hardwired to control volume and mute functions only on computers and tablets. I needed something programmable to mimic the mouse wheel or keyboard clicks that would adjust my VFO up and down and other functions like locking the VFO.

Thanks to RemoteTX.Net (https://remotetx.net/usb-vfo-knob-setup/), I found a solution for certain USB Volume knobs with a hidden programming feature. If it worked for their remote station solutions, maybe it would work for PowerSDR and my QRP Flex 1500?


What I decided to try was the AIMOS USB Volume Control from Amazon for under CAD $35, a big difference from the CAD $240 FlexControl from RadioWorld. Reading the online reviews for this particular USB volume knob I saw one person mention the hidden programming feature, and I was willing to give it a try.


When the knob arrived I attempted the hidden programming mode and was thrilled when it loaded as described. I won't try and replicate the fantastic instructions on the RemoteTX website, but I will go into detail about how the Flex PowerSDR configuration is different. Use the link above to get the really detailed step-by-step instructions from RemoteTX.net, then once you understand the process, you can read my notes on how I customized it for PowerSDR.

  1. First off don't plug the USB knob into your computer right away unless you want to test it for its volume control functions before programming it.
  2. Next, open the Notepad software on Windows and leave the Notepad window open and blank. Make sure the window is active (at the front of all other windows), in Windows jargon, this is called FOCUS, the app that you are interacting with.
  3. Hold the Knob button DOWN while you plug it into a USB port on the computer and then RELEASE the button after 1 second.
  4. Slowly after a few seconds, the text will appear in the Notepad window. 
  5. DO NOT touch the mouse or keyboard from this point on, ONLY USE the knob and its button function and the lists and menus that it generates in your Notepad window. This is how to make all programming choices until the programming is completed.
  6. For PowerSDR I programmed the clockwise motion of the knob to increase the VFO by the PowerSDR increments set in the PowerSDR software. This uses the keyboard modifier of CTRL, and the key of the UP ARROW key.
  7. Next, I programmed the counter-clockwise motion of the knob to decrease the VFO by the PowerSDR increments set in the PowerSDR software. This uses the keyboard modifier of CTRL, and the key of the DOWN ARROW key.
  8. Then I programmed pressing the knob down (like a button) to lock/unlock the VFO frequency. This uses the keyboard modifier of CTRL and the key of the L key.
  9. There are 3 additional programming options that I modified to NONE for both the modifier and the key. I might change this in the future, but I don't want to make it more complicated especially when sharing my portable rig with others at events like Field Day. These extra modes were;
    • Press+Clockwise Turn (maybe for mode change up?)
    • Press+Counterclockwise Turn (maybe for mode change down?)
    • Long Press (maybe for triggering the autotuner?)
  10. When you have the options that please you, one last step is clicking on SAVE & QUIT. After you get the OK! you should unplug the USB knob, wait a few seconds, plug it back in, and test your new programming with the PowerSDR software. 
Sample images of the Notepad programming screens




UPDATE


I have tested the USB Volume controller with the modified VFO programming on the final official version of PowerSDR ver 2.7.2, and also with Power SDR by KE9NS ver 2.8.0. Both work great. I did not test on newer Flex Radios (6000+) that run on the SmartSDR software.
  
Here is the PowerSDR Keyboard Shortcut list I used. I've highlighted the ones I used, the remaining three modes supported by the volume knob could be used with any of the other keyboard shortcuts listed below.


Key SequenceFunction
space barTX/RX Toggle after MOX is on until you click on any other button of the GUI
-AF gain decrease
+AF gain increase
*Mute Toggle
[XIT Up
]
, (comma)
. (period)
; (semi colon)
\ (back slash)
AFreq. Down 1 MHz*
BFilter Up*
C
DFreq. Down 10 KHz*
EFreq. Up 10 KHz*
FFreq Down 1 KHz*
GFreq Down 100 Hz*
HFreq Down 10 Hz*
IRIT Down*
JFreq Down 1 Hz*
KIF Shift Left
LIF Shift Right
MBand Change Up*
NBand Change Down*
ORIT Up*
PXIT Down*
QFreq Up 1 MHz*
RFreq Up 1 KHz*
SFreq Down 100 KHz*
TFreq Up 100 Hz*
UFreq Up 1 Hz*
VFilter Down*
WFreq Up 100 KHz*
XMode Change Up*
YFreq Up 10 Hz*
ZMode Down*
ALT+A
ALT+BToggle NB On/Off
ALT+CCW Form
ALT+D
ALT+E
ALT+FFilter Wider
ALT+GCopy VFO A to VFO B
ALT+HCopy VFO B to VFO A
ALT+IIF Shift Reset (centered)
ALT+J
ALT+K
ALT+L
ALT+MMemory Form
ALT+NToggle NB2 On/Off
ALT+O
ALT+P
ALT+QCW Speed Up
ALT+RRIT Zero
ALT+SSetup Form
ALT+TToggle TUNE on/off
ALT+U
ALT+VSwap VFOs A/B
ALT+WWave From
ALT+XXVTR Form
ALT+YXIT Zero Beat
ALT+ZZero Beat
F1CW Memory 1
F2CW Memory 2
F3CW Memory 3
F4CW Memory 4
F5CW Memory 5
F6
F7
F8
F9
F10
F11
F12
CTRL+ "up arrow"VFO A Increase freq. by tune step
CTRL+ "down arrow"VFO A decrease freq. by tune step
CTRL+"-"AGC-T Gain Down
CTRL+"+"AGC-T Gain Up
CTRL+AToggle AGC on/off
CTRL+BToggle NR on/off
CTRL+CQuick Save
CTRL+D
CTRL+E
CTRL+FFilter Narrower
CTRL+G
CTRL+H
CTRL+I
CTRL+J
CTRL+K
CTRL+LToggle VFO lock/unlock
CTRL+MToggle MOX on/off
CTRL+NToggle ANF on/off
CTRL+O
CTRL+PPreamp
CTRL+Q
CTRL+R
CTRL+SToggle Split on/off
CTRL+T
CTRL+U
CTRL+VQuick recall
CTRL+WCW Speed Down
CTRL+X
CTRL+Y
CTRL+Z
CTRL+ALT+UUCB configuration form






Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Amateur Radio in Canada. What It Is, And What It Isn't.

The statements and comments in this post are the opinions of the writer. If I'm wrong on important details please correct me. If you have your own 'opinions' feel free to express them elsewhere, this is my blog hi hi.

So many repeated threads online related to the hobby. Sometimes I have the patience to answer the same questions over and over, and sometimes I wish people would search or scroll down and find the same questions answered over and over in the previous posts.

1) An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is issued to a person by the Canadian Government department ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) formerly Industry Canada. 

  • Many Amateurs refer to this as a 'license' which technically it's not. I'm one of those people that doesn't mind the term license as it's easier to say and remember.
  • An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is issued when you pass the multiple-choice test with an Accredited Examiner. These examiners are volunteer Amateur Radio operators of a high knowledge level in the hobby who had been certified to run exams on behalf of ISED.
  • Passing the Basic exam with a score of 70% or higher is a pass. You will be issued the Basic Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio and a callsign. You will be allowed to operate radios in the 6M band and above (VHF, UHF, Microwave).
  • Passing the Basic exam with a score of 80% or higher earns you the designation Basic with Honors. You will be issued the Basic with Honors Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio and a callsign. This unlocks HF band privileges combined with 6m and above. So you can use ALL of the Canadian bands and frequencies allocated for amateur radio use.
  • Once you have your Basic Certificate of Proficiency you can stop, or continue to study and take the Morse code add-on (5 WPM in CW plus exam), or take the Advanced test and try for your Advanced Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio, which grants some additional benefits like building your own radios and operating and maintaining repeaters.

2) An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' DOES NOT allow you to operate in other radio-related modes and systems in Canada including;

  • Marine radio (required to operate boats)
  • Aeronautical radio (required to operate planes)
  • Land Mobile radio (used commercially between work vehicles and office base)  
  • Rural Route radio (used on rural & logging roads to call out traffic locations)
An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is only for use in the spectrum of radio assigned to the Amateur Radio hobby. Yes, this is a lot of bands and frequencies, but there is little to no overlap and one 'license' does not replace or substitute for another.

3) I'm an avid offroader and I was told Amateur Radio is an excellent way to communicate off the beaten path and utilize mountain top repeaters where the cell phone is out of range.

  • Yes, you can utilize amateur radio this way. You must follow the amateur radio rules and share the bands and frequencies with others. You cannot claim a frequency as your own, or tell others to get off your frequency.
  • Keep in mind if it's multiple people in your party, and each has a radio in their vehicle or on their person they ALL need an Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' to communicate with one another.
  • You can't use your amateur radios for other purposes (like rural route radio communication on logging roads for example).
  • There are alternatives to Amateur Radio for offroading. Look into https://vernoncommunications.ca/4wdabc-gets-bc-wide/

4) What does it cost to get an Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency'

  • Typically it should cost $100. Radio clubs run courses that typically cost around $100. These will typically include the coursebook from Coax Publications with a value of $50 and will also include the classroom teaching and the final exam all together in that $100 bundle.
  • There is free course material online on the internet, the quality of that material varies, where the Coax Publication coursebook works on being up to date to match the current government exam.
  • If you chose to self-study you will need to find your own examiner and that might also include a small fee as examiners are allowed to charge for their expenses if they wish. 
  • If you research online well, you can find all the materials you need to study for free, you could also find an examiner for free, so potentially the cost could be nothing. More often people don't mind the $100 investment in getting classroom learning, a good book to keep and study from, and the convenience of an examiner-led scheduled exam at the end.
to be continued...



Sunday, January 10, 2021

Antenna SWR Chart

 

Click on chart image for a larger view

Spent some time in the shack this weekend moving cabling around and inserting the new LDG auto tuner in the previous blog post.

Whenever I make changes like this I like to test everything on the antenna analyzer to make sure the SWR doesn't change and also refresh my memory on which HF antenna provides the best SWR on each band.

As part of the process, this new chart was made and will be printed and placed at eye-level from my main operating position.

Key information presented in the chart;

  • Tuner input by name
  • Antenna assignment in the tuner
  • Antenna by name
  • All HF bands that are workable on either antenna.
  • All SWR levels from the approximate center of each band,
  • Color coding, green for SWR of 1 to 3. yellow for SWR of 3 - 5, orange for SWR of 5 - 10
  • In the blue cells, I identify the bottom and top frequencies for each band.
  • And finally, the grey cells identify the center band frequencies that I use when testing the SWR on each antenna with the antenna analyzer.
Happy to confirm that with just 2 HF antennas there are 8 HF bands that I can operate on with an SWR of 2:1 or lower. And I can push that up to 10 bands with the help of the tuner.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

New Year & New Wiring Configuration


With a new year comes a new purchase and a re-wire of the shack. 

The new purchase is an LDG AT-200ProII antenna tuner. Some nice features of this unit include two antenna inputs and a 200-watt max power handling with SSB and CW signals on most bands. Another great feature is the versatility of this model line from LDG allowing them to work with almost any transceiver instead of some of their other models that are designed to pair with a specific model of transceiver (for example my Yaesu FT-847 transceiver and it's matching LDG YT-847 auto tuner).

The new wiring layout suits my operating style, one operator using one radio at a time. It will allow me to have up to 4 of my HF transceivers wired into a grounded antenna switch. I can select one radio at a time to operate on. Typically the other radios are turned off when not in use.

After deciding the radio to operate with, and switching to that radio on the switch, my signal will pass onto a nice large display HF SWR Meter (Daiwa - CN-801HP) before passing into the new auto tuner (LDG AT-200ProII). In the tuner, I can select either one of my HF antennas (dipole or beam) to transmit & receive on. Each antenna has a high-quality lightning arrestor installed and proper grounding of all the equipment and antennas (safety ground, lightning ground, & rf ground).

I know this isn't rocket science and I'm not inventing something new here. For my solo operating style this is just a new versatile configuration that supports all of the following;

  • Four (4) transceivers wired in and available for use (always just one at a time).
  • A manual switch that also supports a straight to ground position when no equipment is being used.
  • An investment in a nice big & well lit SWR Meter that works with any radio selected in the configuration.
  • An investment in a nice Auto Tuner that works with any radio selected in the configuration.
  • Two HF antenna choices that can be easily selected on the Auto Tuner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

'Poor Hams' GeoChron Amateur Radio Information Display

Let's be honest, almost every amateur radio operator wants a real GeoChron but likely can't afford one.



If you aren't familiar with GeoChron, this 50+-year-old companies product is a very complex analog electric wall clock that displays the world map and dynamically tracks the greyline (showing parts of the world in the dark of night, and parts of the world in the light of day). These expensive clocks are still popular items in the boardrooms or lobbies of multi-national corporations. Over 30,000 of these clocks have been produced in GeoChron's history. In recent years a digital version of the GeoChron is also available and it's intended to connect to a large 4K TV to show the traditional GeoChron dynamic map, as well as other cool data, live from the Internet.

Cut to an ARRL QST magazine article in 2017 from a fellow ham (WB0OEW) who created another internet-connected information software program for micro PC boards & touchscreen displays. His software 'Ham Clock' was focused on information that an amateur radio operator would appreciate like:
  • Operators callsign (with control of color scheme for alphanumeric text and background)
  • Internet synced UTC clock with hours, minutes and seconds as well as DST on/off
  • Day, month, year
  • Stopwatch or remaining time countdown
  • Screen lock so preferred setting are not changed by accident
  • Mercator or Azimuthal map view with grayline
  • Toggle Lat/Long map grid, or Tropics, or none.
  • Moon phases as seen from the earth surface.
  • Sun position directly overheard.
  • OACAP predictions for any path at several power levels
  • trend plots and predictions for solar flux, sunspot, XRay and Kp index
  • short and long path antenna beam heading and distance to any DX location
  • Satellite and ISS tracking and display next satellite rise/set times and overhead pass (not just global track)
  • local weather, time, grid square, prefix and sun rise/set times at any DX location
  • live scrolling DX cluster display
  • live solar images from Solar Dynamics Observatory
  • live NCDXF beacon location, time and frequency schedule
  • live RSS feeds from popular ham related web sites
  • show Moon rise/set and overhead passes for EME
  • adjust time forward or back to explore gray line location, satellite orbits etc
  • and these are just a few...
The Ham Clock software is now also available in a rebranded (HF Clock) a commercial product with an embedded microcomputer and touch screen display in your choice of nice wood desktop frame. Shop for this product on the manufacturer's website https://veritiumresearch.com/hf-clock/. So if you want to buy a product like a GeoChron or HF Clock, I've given you the basic information to research and order your own clock. 

Ham Clock DIY


However many hams like the DIY part of the hobby and maybe don't want to purchase these unique clocks and amateur data systems, hence the reason for this post, building your own Ham Clock on the cheap using your own parts and pieces.

The original Ham Clock software from WB0OEW is still free to download from his website, he even includes instructions on various ways to compile the software for the Raspberry Pi and a 7" or 9" touch screen LCD or even on a desktop PC. 

VA7AEJ's Ham Clock 32" LCD TV Project

For my project, I wanted to utilize some equipment that I already had (ie a free project), and I also wanted a little more versatility out of the host device (the PC). I also preferred a larger screen easier to see from around the room.

My parts list

  • An older small form factor Acer desktop computer with HDMI output. A PC with any output graphics that support your monitor or TV would work.
  • An older 32" Sony Bravia LCD TV that's already mounted on the wall in my shack for watching TV.
  • USB Flash Drive (4GB)

Software

  • Linux Lite 5.0, a lightweight linux distro built for older computers and based on Ubuntu Linux. 
  • You may use actual Ubuntu, or any other flavor of Linux based on Ubuntu should work.
  • Ham Clock ver 2.49 (current version as of July 2020) downloaded and compiled during the setup steps below.

Setup Steps

  • From another PC download the ISO image of the latest version of Linux Lite.
  • Using tools like 'Balena Etcher' or 'Rufus' flash the downloaded linux ISO to a USB flash drive creating bootable installation media for the PC. You may also burn the image to a DVD if you prefer that method and your intended target PC has a DVD drive.
  • I booted the target PC (my old Acer) from the USB flash drive and installed Linux Lite.
    • All the installation setup screens are common sense and the default options were chosen most of the time.
    • On the partition screen, I said to wipe the drive and replace the contents with Linux Lite.
    • On the user/password screen, I set the account to log in automatically for convenience.
  • At the end of the Linux Lite installation, I shut down the system and removed the USB flash drive (or DVD) and then powered on the system on the newly installed Linux Lite.
  • Once the system is booted I went straight to the Terminal program and the command line. Cut and paste these commands into the Terminal session and run each line on it's own before advancing to the next line.  For example in the first line select the text sudo apt-get update
  • Scan for system updates   sudo apt-get update
  • Install all updates found   sudo apt-get upgrade
  • Add some required software   sudo apt install curl make g++ xorg-dev
  • Reboot the system and then resume in Terminal again.
  • Download Ham Clock   curl -o ESPHamClock.zip http://www.clearskyinstitute.com/ham/HamClock/ESPHamClock.zip
  • Unpack the Ham Clock download   unzip ESPHamClock.zip
  • Change to the new Ham Clock directory   cd ESPHamClock
  • Compile the Ham Clock program   make -j 4 hamclock-1600x960
    • NOTE: Ham Clock supports only four screen sizes so pick the one that's under the max resolution of your monitor or TV attached to the Ham Clock PC.
    • Ham Clock resolutions - 800 x 480  -  1600 x 960  -  2400 x 1440  -  3200 x 1920
    • My TV's max resolution is 1920 x 1080, so I compiled the software at 1600x960 as both the width and height of HamClock is less than the height and width of the TV's resolution. If you pick higher Ham Clock settings the program will be larger than the monitor and areas will not be seen on the screen.
  • Create a desktop shortcut for launching Ham Clock
    • Right-click on an empty area of the Linux Lite desktop and select Create Launcher 
    • Name: Ham Clock
    • Comment: 
    • Command: ./hamclock-1600x960
    • Working Directory: /home/[your-username]/ESPHamClock
    • Icon: select something you like from the available options

The first time Ham Clock launches it goes to a setup screen where you enter your callsign, your Lat and Long, or you can let the app geolocate with your internet connection (not always as accurate).

As Ham Clock was written for a touch display you can use a mouse to click on most parts of the screen and make changes. The Ham Clock User Guide is an easy read on understanding the initial setup and use of the software once installed and running.

So why didn't I just do this install on a Raspberry Pi and connect that to the TV? Well like I said I have other plans for this Linux Lite PC connected to that TV, so this method allows me to run Ham Clock when the PC is not in use for other purposes, but if I want to watch a movie or listen to some music I can close Ham Clock and fire up Kodi or Spotify etc. 
  

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Brian Jensen Obituary



Brian Jensen of Trinity Valley, Lumby passed away suddenly on the evening of Thursday, June 11th on the property that he developed and loved over a period of 40 years. He is survived by his wife of 52 years Ursula, his son Aaren Jensen (Kelly) and granddaughter Molly of Lumby, and daughter Vanessa O’Brien (Rick) of Kamloops. He leaves behind his sisters Karen (Dave) Kovak of Saskatchewan, and Bonnie (Kim) Jensen of Alberta as well as a large extended family throughout BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
Brian was born in Camrose Alberta the only son of the late Harold and Carol Jensen a farming family from the Ferintosh region. He attended Camrose Lutheran College before moving to work at Alberta Hospital Ponoka. While in Ponoka he met his future wife Ursula Graumann, a recent immigrant from Essen Germany. Brian became interested in a mental health career and became a Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN). He married Ursula and moved his young family to Drumheller AB to work at a new Federal Penitentiary. As his family grew Brian shifted from nursing into Manpower & Immigration, then recruiting helping find Engineers from England and Scotland to work in the northern Alberta oil industry. At the start of the 1980s while working in Edmonton Brian and his family made a huge decision to leave their corporate jobs and city lives and try their hand at homesteading in Trinity Valley north of Lumby. They settled on an empty 20-acre parcel with a spectacular view. Brian and Ursula with help from their children built a beautiful log home. Brian taught himself every step of construction requiring little outside help. After a few years, he went back to nursing at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in various roles related to Psychiatry and mental health. He helped many people in the North Okanagan as his career transitioned from nursing into mental health therapy until his retirement.
Back on the farm with no prior horse experience Brian and Ursula bought a couple Norwegian Fjord Horses which slowly grew to become a major part of their lives for the next 35+ years. Brian was extremely active in the Breed, raising horses, importing and selling, showing, driving & competitions, training, teaching, and judging. He was an internationally certified judge and evaluator traveling throughout North America and Europe working for the breed he loved. He traveled to Norway many times representing Canada and the USA as a member of the International Fjord Horse board. Most importantly he mentored and trained hundreds of other people and families to love the Fjord horse as much as he did.
As hard-working and respected as Brian was in his work and personal life, he privately had his own mental health issues. As he approached his 75th birthday he found it more and more difficult to adjust to aging, declining health, and reducing his activities within the Fjord community. If you are struggling with mental health issues PLEASE reach out for help. In the North Okanagan contact the Canadian Mental Health Association, The Vernon Jubilee Hospital, or the People In Need (PIN) Crisis Line at 1-800-353-2273.















Sunday, July 05, 2020

A Home Based Enterprise Network System


The UniFi® Enterprise System delivers a breakthrough combination of performance, reliability, and scalability with top performance/price value. Intuitive management software featuring a graphical user interface is bundled with the UniFi hardware at no extra cost – no licensing fees or support costs.

Over the last six months or so I've been slowly gathering a collection of network components from Ubiquiti's UniFi product line.

This weekend I finally had enough key pieces that the system unlocked a ton of new features. Prior to this weekend I only had a couple access points (as these work with any network) and I managed them with a virtual server running the UniFi Controller software.

Now, I have added the CloudKey (which replaced my VM controller), and a Unifi Security Gateway (USG) which replaced my old home router.

The CloudKey and USG unlocked my ability to get a ton of system data and features from a mobile app as well as control it remotely from anywhere I have my phone or a web browser.

I'm eyeing a couple more UniFi components to complete the system, but so far I'm very pleased.

Friday, April 10, 2020

UPDATE #2 - 'Poor Hams' Wooden Antenna Mast


This past winter right after the RAC Winter Contest an ice storm built up too much weight on my Off Center Fed Dipole antenna and the top 4 feet of my trusty wooden antenna mast snapped off.

Jump to Easter weekend about 3 months later, enough snow has melted that I convinced my wife and daughter to help me bring down the tilt over wood tower and reattach my OCF antenna to the top of the mast.

It was one of those activities where no one had the idea of stopping and taking a few pictures so I only have a few snaps of when the work was finished. Thanks to Curtis my neighbor for lending a hand as well.

After we were done I ran back inside the shack and quickly tuned a few spots on all the HF bands and everything is back to normal. So glad I can get back onto more of the HF bands again.

Note: I've always suspected that the top 4 feet of the original mast design would be the point most likely to fail and I was right. But it stood for 8 years before snapping in that winter ice storm. Today the antenna tilted back over exactly as designed and was not difficult work for the 4 of us involved, there was no real repair done as all I did was reattach the antenna to the new high point of the wooden mast and lifted it back up.




At the bottom is a modified copy of the build sheet I did 8 years ago when the antenna mast was first built. It notes the spot where the top section of the mast broke off in a winter storm. My suggestion now, shorten or remove this top section of the mast.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Headphones for Ham Radio



I have a problem, an addiction really.
Hi, my name is Aaren and I'm a headphone addict.

Years ago when I was young, single and had lots of dispensible income I got into high-end audio (Hi-Fi). My stereo equipment and loudspeakers were audiophile-grade and my music collection was measured in the 1000+ range.

Many years later I'm married with a teenager, we have a mortgage, a camper, multiple vehicles and my dispensable cash is now invisible cash.

In my audio hobby, I transitioned from spending thousands on speakers or amps to spending hundreds on headphones and headphone tube amps. I can venture to say the quality of my sound experience did not change, and my family and neighbors are now pleasantly left out of the experience as I quietly enjoy my music.

Purchasing and enjoying different makes and models of hi-fi and studio-grade headphones has become another one of my vices. This includes headphones from premium brands like Focal from France & Beyerdynamic from Germany.

Then my amateur radio hobby comes along about 8 years ago and the sonic experience is entirely different. Instead of the pure clean audio that I experience with my music, I now have noise and hiss and static filling the speakers or headphones with the challenge of pulling those weak signals out of the air.

Hence my recent interest headphones designed for radio.

Typically as humans, we can hear in the range of frequencies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. This range is known as the audio range.

The traditional audio frequency range of standard telephone transmissions was roughly 300 - 3400 Hz, a much much narrower range for just human voice communications.

For comparison here are some basic specs from a couple pairs of my music/studio-grade headphones

Focal Spirit Classic
  • Stereo
  • Impedance - 32 Ohms
  • Frequency response 5 Hz - 22,000 Hz
Beyerdynamic DT990Pro
  • Stereo
  • Impedance - 250 Ohms
  • Frequency response 5 Hz - 35,000 Hz

Heil Sound Pro-7 Headset


A couple years ago I bought my first boomset/headset (headphones with a microphone) designed for ham radio from Heil Sound. Bob Heil is famous in two sectors of his life's work, his professional studio and live touring equipment for musicians, and his life long love for the hobby of amateur radio. Bob's company specializes in equipment for both sectors of the market. And his equipment is very well respected in both.


The Heil Pro-7 headset that I purchased had the following listening specs. And I wrote a more detailed post about these here on the blog.

Heil Pro-7 Specs (headphone portion)
  • Stereo
  • Impedance - 32 Ohms (Thanks for the confirmation by Steve Warford from Heil Sound)
  • Frequency response 100 Hz - 12,000 Hz
Notice that the Heil Pro 7 headphone speakers respond from 100 Hz through 12,000 Hz before attenuating way down at the lower and higher ends of the spectrum. Music audiophiles want speakers that go lower and higher in order to hear the lower and higher notes, but for amateur radio and shortwave, these headphone speakers focus on the CW, SSB, AM, FM human voice range that we want and need to hear. Having a higher response often means static or hiss can be emphasized and we don't want to hear that. Bob's design gives you a clean flat response in only the range you need to hear and eliminates the range of sounds that you don't need to want to hear.

Kenwood HS-5 Mono Headphones


My latest purchases are interesting as well and I very much enjoyed the research before the purchase.

I had no idea Kenwood made ham radio/shortwave related headphones as well. I can't tell if these are retro-styled or if Kenwood has seen no reason to update the design and they're actually a 20-year-old trusted and true model?

   
     

Kenwood HS-5 Specs
  • Mono (YES, many many radios especially older ones are mono only)
  • Impedance - 8 Ohms 
  • Frequency response 150 Hz - 4,000 Hz

The Marketing Blurb
Kenwood Communications Headphones are perfect for amateur radio and shortwave listening. They feature cushioned foam or vinyl earpieces that make listening so comfortable, you'll forget you're wearing them. Drawing from Kenwood's extensive audio background, their high-performance Kenwood driver units reproduce communication sounds for signals that never sounded so clear! Their audio response makes them great for all modes; CW, SSB, FM, and AM. Kenwood Communications Headphones provide excellent speech fidelity and their lightweight allows for extreme comfort while listening for hours.

These Kenwood HS-5 mono headphones are engineered and tuned strictly for radio communication purposes to provide distinctive voice sound (150-4000 Hz -6 dB). I can't wait for these to arrive and try out. So often in the radio hobby, we grab a pair for 'regular' headphones or ear buds and get to work. But by engineering the lowest and highest sounds out of the equation so much noise can be removed without the need for filters or DSP.

They are supplied with removable foam-type ear pads. They are also supplied with a second set of leatherette pads with a cavity in the center. It is easy to change the pads.



With ¼ inch, mono plug and 6.6 foot (2m) non-coiled fabric wrapped cord.




Heil Sound Pro Set 3 Headphones



First off these are not dedicated radio headphones like the Kenwood HS-5's, instead Heil Sound has designed a more well rounded and versatile pair of headphones.

The Marketing blurb

The Heil ProSet3 professional stereo headphones have been designed for a wide variety of applications including amateur radio, studio recording, commercial broadcast use, and casual listening. With a frequency response of 10 Hz to 22 kHz, they deliver exceptional articulation and clarity, with beautiful sonic accuracy in a closed-back, lightweight headset The over-ear headphones weigh only 7 oz and feature padded ear cups so that they will be comfortable and non-fatiguing over long periods of time.

For ham radio operators and listeners, the exclusive Heil Phase Reversal switch allows the user to move the signal acoustically, which creates a spatial widening of the sound field that makes it easier to ‘see’ a signal inside a pileup while removing listener fatigue during prolonged use.

To accommodate different listening situations, the headphones come included with three detachable cables: a 5.9′ flexible straight cable with a 1/8″ headphone plug, a 5.9′ straight cable with an iPhone and iPod compatible 1/8″ plug, and a 9.8′ coiled cable with a 1/8″ headphone plug. The cables have twist-lock terminating 1/8″ gold-plated connectors. A 1/4″ gold plated screw-on adapter comes included with the headphones.



Heil Pro Set 3
  • Stereo
  • Impedance - 32 ohms
  • Frequency response - 10 Hz - 22,000 Hz
As you can see from the product description and the specs these are basically studio-grade stereo headphones which one ham radio feature 'the phase switch'. The frequency response is very similar to high-end audio headphones so you can expect to hear a more full range of sounds including the hiss from the higher frequencies. But you can use these stereo headphones for everything and expect to hear great sound no matter what the purpose is.

The phase reversal switch is a unique feature though. As an owner of the Heil Pro-7's which also includes this feature, it is a feature worth considering. The way the switch works if by flipping a two-position switch you can change between being in phase and out of phase. This can greatly help the listener "dig out" weak signals. The phase reversal is used to acoustically 'move' the signal from front to back. Reversing the phase creates a spatial widening of the sound field making it easier to 'see' a radio signal in a pileup as well as removing listening fatigue.

Wrap Up




In conclusion, this is just a summary of some of the higher-end headphone solutions available for amateur radio and shortwave listening. Please keep in mind that both Kenwood and Heil make other lower-priced models so you have a larger variety of products and prices to work with. I've focused this blog post on the highest level models from each brand because these are the units that I own or have researched and ordered.

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